The Need for Cheap Prosthetics Around the World
The vast majority of us are lucky enough that we’ll never need to think about what it must be like to be missing a limb. However, it doesn’t take much to imagine the types of struggles this must involve. Obviously, the need for a prosthetic limb would be high. At our organization, we hope to address these needs for impoverished people all over the world.
How Prosthetics Work
What most people don’t understand is how prosthetics work, especially in third world or otherwise impoverished countries around the world. Prosthetic limbs are rarely a one-time solution, meaning you give it to someone who is in need and they are automatically “better.”
Instead, you need professionals who can help fit the person—there are no one size fits all prosthetics. Then, once someone receives a prosthetic limb, you need a professional who can help them practice with it and get used to using it as if it were the real thing.
However, you also need to understand that one prosthetic is never enough. For example, children tend to need a new one every six months to a year. That’s because they’re continuously growing and thus outgrowing their prosthetic limb. When you imagine how hard it is for a person to get one prosthetic limb in an impoverished area of the world, then try to imagine the challenges involved with receiving more than one in the future.
Even full grown adults need more than one. Typically, adults need theirs replaced every three to five years. But without professionals assessing them, it’s tough to tell.
All in all, children will need close to 25 limbs throughout their young lives. For adults, this number is closer to 20. Currently, it’s difficult to meet this kind of demand.
The Case of Krista Donaldson
Earlier this year, a situation played out that really helped show how much interest there is in cheap prosthetics all around the world and not just by those who have lost limbs. This scenario shows that people all over the world have interest in such a solution.
It all started with a woman named Krista Donaldson. She is the CEO of a company named D-Rev which makes medical devices for people all over the globe. The TED organization contacted her and asked if she would be interested in presenting at one of their conferences. Naturally, she accepted, though her hopes for making an impact weren’t all that high.
Nonetheless, she took the stage and spoke about how people all over the world needed prosthetic limbs, but that the vast majority of them couldn’t afford the solutions that were available. Her company specifically targets those people who make less than $4 a day. As such, they simply had to go without.
Then she presented a prosthetic knee her company had created and were putting in development. The solution she held cost just around $80.
As we mentioned, when Donaldson left the stage, she didn’t think much would come of what she said in terms of inquiries. She hoped she had informed the audience, but didn’t think she’d receive anything than a few scattered emails in the days to come.
Instead, she received roughly 120 over the course of the next two months. Best of all, they weren’t just from people who needed knees. They were also from those who wanted to help get the knees out to others all over the world! These inquiries came from everywhere too, from Algeria to Pakistan to Uruguay to India. Distributors were just as widespread too.
What this story highlights is that these types of prosthetics are extremely necessary throughout the world, especially at prices far below $100. Most prosthetic knees on the market cost thousands, despite the fact that they are on par with Donaldson’s project.
Imagine what the response would have been if she had other prosthetics available too. It’s possible she would receive thousands of inquiries in the same amount of time.
So, we know there is a demand for this type of service, but where do we start? We’re of the opinion that part of the issue is personnel, which we touched on earlier. Prosthetic limbs are great, but there has to be professionals who are trained in them and can help those in need get fitted and comfortable. Constant assessments need to be done, too, in order to ensure that the wearer is getting new ones when appropriate.
Unfortunately, at the moment, there aren’t many training programs in developing countries. Back in 2003, the World Health Organization estimated that the world needed around 40,000 more professionals to meet demand for prosthetic limb construction, fitting, alignment and adjusting. However, they also thought it would be 50 years before even 18,000 such professionals were suitably trained in.
Another area that needs to be addressed is getting the prosthetics needed. They must be both affordable and, in many cases, made to non-Western standards and lifestyles. Many, for example, simply aren’t up to the task of going through the type of wear and tear provided by rural living, which is common in most low income countries. Plus, Western prosthetics tend to fall short of the demands made on them by local climates. For example, conventional models made from wood won’t make it longer than 18 months, on average.
Finally, as we’ve mentioned throughout, what prosthetic limbs do get made are just much too expensive for the areas that need them. Consider how much you can make for physical labor in developing countries. It isn’t much.
Now imagine how much you’d make for this kind of labor as a refugee, a nomad, a herdsman or a farmer. Many of the most common prosthetic limbs out there cost thousands of dollars to these types of people. This simply isn’t realistic.
We’re Here to Help Those in Need
The bottom line is that we understand the above and want to meet the needs of those without prosthetic limbs. With your help, we believe those who need prosthetics can get the kind they need at an affordable cost.